Terror on East Fifth Street

Low Rent in a Hot Neighborhood Spells Trouble for Tenants

"What are we supposed to do?" asks Schiro. "He chases my wife into traffic, paces outside our door at all hours... What do you tell a cop who just came off a triple murder? That they stole my UPS package?" he says, noting that often, expected packages never arrive. "It seems like a lot of petty stuff, but the cumulative effect is devastating."

Kramarchuk Jr. has allegedly told neighbors that Schiro smokes crack—an incredible charge, considering that Schiro, an amateur runner, ranks third in the country in the 400-meter sprint for his age group; he's 46. Kramarchuk Jr. denies spreading rumors, saying he "wasn't brought up to partake in gossip."

"I can tell you one thing," says Schiro. "Even in this retarded city, burning incense is not going to get you evicted. The real issue here is $430 a month versus $1200."

An order of protection forbids landlord Zenon Kramarchuk Sr. from bothering a tenant; he faces other criminal charges as well.
Hiroyuki Ito
An order of protection forbids landlord Zenon Kramarchuk Sr. from bothering a tenant; he faces other criminal charges as well.

Ever since Margeta moved into 524 East 5th Street in 1977, Kramarchuk Sr. has been the landlord; he owns another walk-up across the street at 529 East 5th. His company, Zenila Realty, is a family enterprise; Kramarchuk Jr. is its secretary. Tenants say 38-year-old Junior's habits include bringing female tenants plastic roses, going on occassional tirades against fornication and crack smoking, and incessantly posting memos in triplicate on tenants' doors.

"Everybody's afraid of the Kramarchuks because they're unpredictable and you're unsure of what they'll do," says one man who recently moved after six years in Zenila properties. "I've seen Senior lose his temper many times. And Junior would always talk about evicting people who simply had friends over."

Amanda Weiner, who "sublet" an apartment from Kramarchuk Sr. in 1994, once had a dispute with him over a broken lock. "He stopped me on the street and was coming at me," recalled Weiner. "The man is a lunatic, running after me saying, 'I'm going to have you evicted!' Later on, Junior came to my door and told me that I need to be nice to his father and if I wasn't they would put me on a list of bad tenants and I'd never get an apartment in the city again."

Another subletter, NYU student Anne McKilligan, documented her bizarre experience as a Kramarchuk tenant in a letter that is part of Margeta and Schiro's eviction case. McKilligan, who sublet the apartment Weiner had occupied, wrote that the "downward sprial" of her tenancy began in October 1997 when Junior knocked on her door late at night "unannounced as usual. I said I was not dressed and he replied, 'That's even better.'" McKilligan moved out. Junior told the Voice, "I made a stupid joke and the joke has come back to haunt me. I wasn't thinking."

The sublet scheme has afforded the Kramarchuks a valuable prize: vacancies. "I never get any vacancies; I never even try," says David Giddens, who owns a building next to Kramarchuks'. "But next door, I know how they are about the tenants. The younger man has said things to me like, 'You're not hard enough on your tenants. You don't really push them a lot.' It's what gives landlords a terrible name."

Last October, Giddens says, he was concerned about a possible rat infestation because the Miliczenko sisters left food for pigeons, squirrels, and stray cats in a yard that adjoins his building. Says Giddens, "The food was spoiling, and people had been seeing rats."

Tenants and neighbors describe the Miliczenko sisters as "reclusive" and "just really weird." In another letter filed with the Margeta-Schiro eviction suit, Paul Steinman, who moved from Margeta's building last year, wrote that the Miliczenkos would 'throw foul-smelling sticky substances on the stoop outside my door," attracting ants into his street-level apartment. Law enforcement sources say, during conversations, the Miliczenko sisters make faces at them and stick out their tongues.

Complaints from the Miliczenkos spurred the pending eviction suit against Margeta and Schiro. In court papers, Junior alleges that the Miliczenkos are bothered by the "strong-smelling, offensive, and sometimes suffocating odors" that come from Margeta and Schiro's apartment when they burn incense.

"There is clearly a conspiratorial relationship between the landlord and the Miliczenkos," says Maddy Tarnofsky, who is representing Margeta and Schiro. "Mary Miliczenko is the star witness in the eviction case. The Miliczenkos are clearly the landlordhenchmen."

Miliczenko laughs at the theory, and says when she first complained about Schiro, "The landlord did not take any side at that time. It was after a year when he decided they were damaging his property that he stepped in."

It was at an October court date in the eviction suit, says Margeta, that Kramarchuk grabbed her by the arm and screamed at her—a move that convinced police to arrest him three days later. According to the D.A.'s criminal complaint, Kramarchuk Sr. shook Margeta, screaming "Give me my money!" But Zenila Realty has returned Margeta's rent payments each of the past four months.

The D.A.'s charges include three other incidents. On July 21, the landlord confronted Margeta on the street, waving his hands in her face and screaming at her, enraged that she had called building inspectors; when Margeta tried to run, he chased her into oncoming traffic. Kramarchuk repeated the performance the next day, according to the complaint. Two weeks later, the D.A. alleges, Kramarchuk tried to block Margeta as she left the building, shoving her and calling her a bitch, a motherfucker, and a piece of shit.

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